Jewel Towers Deluxe Review

Jewel Towers Deluxe Review

Mar 14, 2012

I think whether or not a game needs a plot is best determined on a case by case basis. Bejeweled has no story but is still wildly popular. But sometimes, a story or theme can help to revitalize a tried and true idea. In the case of Jewel Towers Deluxe it is my guess that this is the reason behind taking the classic jewel-matching game and giving it an Indiana Jones-esque story. But guess what, it works.

Jewel Towers Deluxe is the story of a grizzled adventurer on a quest to steal stones from an ancient, vaguely Aztec culture. There is a spirit guarding the stones, trying to prevent him from collecting them all. Each level assigns a number of each type of stone to be collected, and jewels must be collect in groups of three or more. Furthermore there is a limit to the number of moves that can be made during each level. Exceeding that limit means game over.

The game is interesting in that rather than swapping two adjacent stones, users rotate groups of three highlighted stones. This allows stone to be adjusted multiple times across the board, sometimes even moved from one end to the other to achieve a match. There obstacles in the form of rocks that can’t be matched, or jewels trapped in settings. At each level the game board changes shape for variety and greater challenge. Earning points also lets users buy power-ups in the form of spells. Spells are associated with specific jewels and can be activated when they specific jewel is captured on the board.

The adventurer theme is kind of cool because it adds a mild sense of drama that Bejeweled lacked. The Aztec mummy both taunts and guides users, and the colour scheme of the game gives it a strangely successful crypt-feel. I like the idea of rotating three stones at once, as it reminds me of one of my favourite games, Hexic. I find myself returning to this game fairly frequently.

Unfortunately it has horrendous control issues. The mechanics of moving the jewels requires that the highlighted bracket be moved users tapping it across the field. I should be able to tap anywhere on the board to highlight a bracket, instead of this time consuming process. Even more frustrating, the responsiveness of the game board is not great either and it can take multiple taps to move the bracket even one space. This is especially bad at the edges of the game board where it doesn’t seem to register input at all.

It needs a lot of work, and I urge the developers to put out some improvements soon. The game is fun, but frustration should come from a challenging game, not one that is physically difficult to use.

Defender Review

Defender Review

Jan 23, 2012

I think we all have days when we feel besieged. Wave after wave of setbacks try to keep us down, and we soldier on. I may be going out of a limb here, but I think that’s why, subconsciously, defense games are so popular. A horde approaches to knock down your tower, and you are all that is standing between Good and Evil. It can be cathartic to take that feeling of overwhelming odds and turn it into a challenge to beat. And, specifically, to fire arrows at.

Defender is a game with a simple title, and a seemingly simple objective: stop monsters from destroying your tower. You are the tower’s archer, and you use your bow to hold back and destroy the creatures that appear in waves, bent only on breaking through your walls. The instructions are also simple and straight-forward: tap the screen to fire arrows, long-press for continuous fire, and drag-and-drop your spells onto enemies to trigger them. You earn gold killing enemies and crystals for successful level completion. Gold and crystals are them used to upgrade your weapons, defenses, and spells.

One of the things I like about Defender is that when you die you don’t actually lose anything. You start each round with full health and mana, and you also keep any gold you may have earned despite dying. You don’t earn crystals though, so it is still a challenge to increase your strengths without the mana boosts necessary. The game does offer you the option of purchasing extra gold or crystals. Ordinarily I hate the idea of paying extra for game-components, but considering the fact that the game is free…it’s actually completely fair for the developers to try.

I do wish though that they would tweak the attacks mechanics a bit. You have the option of single-firing arrows, but since every enemy needs at least two shots to take it down, you’ll find yourself exclusively using continuous fire immediately. And the problem there is that you end up essentially dragging your finger all over the screen, blocking your own view. As well, the game can’t fire arrows and cast spells at the same time. This is a problem because when you’ve been in continuous fire mode for too long and try to cast a spell the game needs a second to catch up. It doesn’t lag, it just delays your spell cast. This can give enemies the time they need to get past you and score some costly points.

Wiz Kid Jr. Review

Wiz Kid Jr. Review

Jun 27, 2011

Wiz Kid Jr. is a world of magic, mana and evil spirits. Your goal is to become an Unstoppable Wizard by achieving the highest score on each difficulty level.

In this match-3 style puzzle game, you’ll be stringing together chains of like-colored totems by tracing a path across them vertically and horizontally. The more totems you chain together, the more mana and other bonuses you’ll receive. You need to gather as much mana as possible because mana is your life blood.

As you play, evil spirits pop up on the board, draining your mana. Not all of the spirits are the same, however. There are 6 different types of spirits, and they each have a unique ability. One spirit drains mana at a standard rate while another spirit drains it at twice that. Another spirit is a bomb that explodes and turns the totems around it into more spirits. Likewise, another spirit can transform an entire line into mana-draining spirits. If you don’t stay on top of things, they’ll quickly get out of hand.

As you progress, you’ll need to employ different strategies. Should you focus on eliminating the spirits that do the most damage first, or try to clear as many as possible, regardless of type? It’s not that easy, and it’s one of the things that makes Wiz Kid Jr. different from other match-3 games.

One way to destroy the evil spirits is to chain them in with totem matches. Match 3 or more totems with a spirit and it will be destroyed. However, there are also 4 spells you can learn that make this process even easier. You learn a new spell every time you achieve the high score on a difficulty level, which unlocks the next highest difficulty and more evil spirits. Each spell costs a certain amount of magic bolts which you can only get by forming large chains. An important key to survival is knowing which spells to use and when.

Wiz Kid Jr. moves in waves. If you can’t clear the spirits by the end of a wave, more will pop up and drain even more of your mana. The wave doesn’t end after you’ve cleared the spirits, either. Instead, you want to use this “free time” to build up your mana reserves and bolt charges to prepare for the next wave. As such, you’re constantly trying to keep your mana up while trying to clear the evil spirits. It’s quite a hectic challenge, but it’s really fun.

Featuring stylized visuals and great music, there’s even a Super Free Play mode that allows you to custom tailor the experience by adjusting the aggression and speed of the game while choosing which spirits you want to face-off against. Wiz Kid Jr. is a lot like Dr. Mario meets Puzzle Quest, except the actual pieces on the board are your direct enemy. It offers a unique challenge and a nice twist to the old match-3 style of puzzle games.